Salad Bowls and Global Villages
NYSCAS professor, Ira Weinstock, Uses Multi-faceted Approach to Learning
Adjunct history and sociology professor Ira Weinstock has long been interested in a more hands-on learning experience. In elementary school, his teacher told him that everyone in New York had his own tree. It was a bold claim, so young Weinstock wrote the park service demanding to know which one was his. He was surprised when the well-meaning park service sent a whimsical letter stating that his tree was the third from the giraffe enclosure at the Bronx Zoo. Yet, unfazed, he gathered paper, a marker, a hammer and nails and asked his mother to take him to the zoo where he proceeded to nail his name to the tree.
Students who take Weinstock’s classes, often advertised with such tantalizing titles as “One Salad Bowl: Many Ingredients” Perspectives on American Culture and Society or “From Jamestown to the Global Village” The Immigrant Experience, find that Weinstock hasn’t changed his approach though he is less likely to anger zoo officials.
Instead, he invites guest lecturers, for example, an architect who spoke to his students about the sociology of architecture. He takes students on field trips to sites such as The Museum of Finance and afterwards they discuss their adventures over coffee at local cafes.
Former student Cynthia Roach wrote in a letter to his department chair, “Classes felt like you boarded a bus or train and took a journey through time.”
After graduating from college, Weinstock traveled to various European countries and even briefly worked on a kibbutz in Israel. Upon re-turning to the states, he attended graduate school, graduating with a master’s in political economy from Fordham University and a master’s in political science from the New School. Weinstock then divided his time working for city government and further traveling.
He came to Touro College 10 years ago, when Dr. Jack Lieberman asked him to teach a course in his spare time. Now, he teaches several courses per year in both history and sociology.
“Touro College is such a global college. You focus on American Government, but I’ve had students from all over, from Albania to Zimbabwe,” he says, “and when we talk about comparative cultures, it works because we’re talking about the world around them.”
Weinstock is very interested in his students perspectives about their world, though many of them come to his class knowing little about American history or government.
Frequently, he has students teach the class by creating their own short presentations.
“I combine my own experiences with culture, sociology, political economy, architecture, music, science and art, Weinstock says. “Most of all, I want my students to think critically. I want to give them a better idea of what American society is. I’ve had students tell me that they vote now because of me.”